Review Summary: A heavy music classic. Beyond world-class.
Australia is one of the most inhospitable continents on the planet, second only to Antarctica. Its far western coastline is home to the most isolated major city on the planet, the capital of Western Australia: Perth. It’s perhaps appropriate that from this small outpost of modern civilisation, a one million-strong city surrounded by endless horizons of scorching desolation that such a breath-taking piece of art, one that is so consumed with hopelessness, isolation, solitude and destruction should be conceived. In a year where Australian heavy music has made bounding strides towards widespread recognition, Make Them Suffer have conceived a masterpiece that stands head and shoulders above every heavy release this year.
From the opening piano notes of “Prologue” to the matching outro of closer “Chronicles”, Make Them Suffer take the listener on a journey that shows the metal world exactly how it should be done properly. The first thing that should become apparent is that they have accomplished what so few bands have managed: using breakdowns properly. The breakdowns in this album are not overused, they’re all crushing and intense, variable and placed perfectly to maximise their impact. Simply put, there isn’t a single breakdown on here that feels out of place or just thrown in to cover up a lack of song-writing ability, and that is quite possibly a first for a deathcore band.
Frankly, however, the term “deathcore” feels like an inappropriate label for such an album as this, almost as if it sells the album short. There is so much diversity to be found here that it boggles the mind, and every single element of this record is absolutely essential and doesn’t feel like padding to stretch out the run time. Its 45 minute run time is initially daunting but at no stage does it feel like a chore to listen to, but don’t mistake that for it being an easy listen. This album is exhausting. It contains an intensity that leaves you gasping for air by the end of “Maelstrom”, at which point “Oceans of Emptiness”, a two minute symphonic instrumental, begins but even this doesn’t give the listener a respite as it only serves to heighten this albums absolute best feature: atmosphere.
“Neverbloom” creates an atmosphere so thick you could chew it. Its what sets it on a pedestal above every other deathcore band in existence, because it just chokes you from start to finish on raw energy, emotion and a crushing sense of forboding, before releasing that pent-up mash with a crescendo of brutality that leaves the listener floored, only to build itself up again before obliterating its audience again, and again, and again, and the perfect combination of imagination and creativity in both lyricism and instrumentation is the key.
First, the lyrics. These are some of the best lyrics in metal. End of story. The imagery utilised is nothing short of breathtaking and is combined with a naturalistic theme throughout the album that creates a feeling of isolation and loneliness (“These woods have no memory of the touch of the sun or the smell of the dew and all I can hear through the deafening silence are the moaning of the trees”), as well as inner torment and self-annihilation (“Will you remember me as the one rom the trees where the forests used to stand? I finally lost myself in the heart of the woods and threw away the key) The metaphors and imagery work together amazingly well and this is best seen in album highlights “Elegies” and “Widower”.
The craftsman behind these lyrics is frontman Sean Harmanis who is an absolute beast. His screeching highs and bellowing lows are reminiscent of a tormented beast being brought down and eviscerated by a predator, while his aforementioned lyrics are delievered with an earnesty and desperation that conveys the emotion behind them. Drummer Tim Madden is incredibly versatile in his playing, constantly interspersing his work with creative little fills while still maintaining a granite foundation for the rest of the band to work around. His speed and stamina are awe-inspiring, as is his technical ability, seen best during “Chronicles”. Bassist Chris Arias-Real is impeccable, adding a crushing low end to the mix and playing much more captivating bass lines than most of his peers, while guitarists Nick McLernon and Craig Buckingham lend their freakish ability to create some of the heaviest riffs in modern metal while still managing to conceive absolutely bone-deep melodic hooks, seen best in fourth track “Elegies”.
However, all these elements combined would still only create a great album, not the world-beater that “Neverbloom” undeniably is, and that’s where keyboard and synth player Louisa Burton comes into it. All those atmospheric elements are 100% due to her input. She is the missing link that causes this band to stand above the rest of the competition. Her flourishes in “Morrow” turn that track from a potential filler into a memorable moment, while her simple key work during “Maelstrom” transforms a song with a bloated 7 minute run time into a captivating listening experience.
All of these elements - the lyrics, the instrumentation and the atmosphere they create - combined come together best in “Neverbloom”’s standout track, “Widower”. That song is like the descent into a nightmare. The eerie uncertainty of the heavily distorted keys intro is like waking up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, not having any idea of where you are or what’s going on, before a rushing wave of clarity hits you and terror infuses into your bones as the bands kicks in and Harmanis screeches “WILL YOU REMEMBER ME???”, before you’re sucked into a five-minute vortex of entropy, desolation and despair.
This is, in summary, an album you must listen to. Even if you only have a passing interest in heavy music, you simply MUST listen to “Neverbloom”. It’s not an easy listen. It will exhaust you. It will ruin you. It will sap all the strength from your body and will leave you lying helpless on the ground from its vortex but you will lie there and beg and scream for more, for it to never end, long after the final tortured notes of “Chronicles” have faded away, because this is what you’ve always wanted.
This is beyond world-class.
This is “Neverbloom”.